The curtain rose this Election Day, and with it, the break-of-dawn dealers of democracy, the great agents of the American Dream while others are dreaming: campus polling station workers.
Melodramatic? Maybe, but as I begrudgingly left my house at 6:35 a.m. to watch the opening of the polls, I did not expect to find anybody genuinely enthused to be up so early. What I found instead were people across campus volunteering in some way to host the drama of American democracy.
I dragged myself half-consciously into the Harnwell College House polling station at 6:40 a.m. and soon realized that I was late to the party. Four Penn students had already almost completely set the stage for what would become a 13-hour performance, with polls opening at 7:00 a.m. and closing at 8:00 p.m. Voters joined the stage crew across campus and the country, as they prepared to continue the theatrics of the 2016 campaign season.
"There are a lot of political groups on campus and lot of opportunity to get involved in the Philadelphia community," said College senior Gabby Cuccia, who is also a member of Penn women's track and field team.
When I was tipped off around 7:05 a.m. that President Amy Gutmann would be making an appearance at the Vance Hall polling station, I bid the Harnwell crew adieu and headed to the next theater. Along the way, I called as many Daily Pennsylvanian photographers as I could, and after two voicemails and two half-asleep rejections, I finally got a hold of News Photo Editor Julio Sosa, who messaged me "Here comes the Crimson Chin!" before legitimately sprinting to Vance.
While waiting for the guest of honor, I met Graduate School of Education student Abdul-Qadir Islam, the stage manager of the Vance Station, or as he called it, "majority inspector." I have met few people in my life as enamored by civil service as Islam, who has volunteered in this role for two years and whose extracurricular life centers around youth empowerment.
"At one point in this country, as [a] person of color, I was not allowed to vote, and I truly believe in the opportunity to have a place in civic engagement," Islam said. "I think activating my voice and making sure that I'm present in these kinds of situations can ensure that I have a better impact."
Our conversation was cut short when Gutmann entered the room. When not serving as Penn's president, the political science scholar has dabbled in national politics herself, even serving as chair of President Barack Obama's Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues . She responded "Democrat" when asked for which party she was voting in the closed primary, stepped behind the curtain to enjoy the show and pushed the green "Vote" button — one President voting for another.
After voting, Gutmann left the booth to take the usual pictures with the volunteers, as the cameras clicked for their favorite on-campus star. Before she left, I asked Gutmann why she thought it was important that students actually voted today.
"I think in a democracy, unless students vote, they won't have a voice in the outcome," she said. "I think it's really important that young people have a voice in what goes on in our country and in our state."
By 8:30 a.m., after roving campus with Julio for over an hour and visiting four different campus polling spots, we only witnessed four people total actually vote.
Of course, nobody goes to the matinee anyway; as the actual waking hours came, so did the voters. I myself went to the Penn Center for Rehabilitation and Care at 36th and Chestnut streets to vote.
The streets outside the best venues are always filled with promoters and this show was no different; during our early morning stroll of campus, Julio and I met Penn Democrats President and College junior Max Levy, who joined other Penn Dems members across campus in campaigning for their favorite candidates. The group's endorsed nominee, Hillary Clinton, topped their list of preferences to get a callback for November's final audition.
"There's far too much at stake to roll back the progress we've made over the last eight years." he said. "Right now, we need to make sure that we have a strong Democratic candidate for the fall to show how unacceptable Trump's policies are."
As the curtain fell at 8:00 p.m. when voting closed for the day, the performances of candidates 1968 Wharton graduate Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton received the most press, but no great show exists without a great crew and crowd.Comments powered by Disqus
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